Happy spring! With the increased sunshine and warm temperatures, our backyard chickens are starting to lay lots of eggs again! (For those of you not close to the chicken life cycle, they take a bit of a break in the winter when it’s cold and dark, but return to laying about one egg per day per chicken in the spring) What great timing, because Easter is fast approaching and it’s time to color Easter Eggs!
Please don’t worry if you have brown eggs. The eggs from our backyard chickens come in a variety of browns, ranging from almost white to medium brown (as you can see in the photo above), but I’ve colored the more common dark brown eggs before too and they come out just fine, so don’t feel the need to go out a buy white eggs for your Easter dyeing project.
This year I got really excited about making my own natural dyes and am happy to share the recipes with you!
First, you might be asking…”why would you want to make your own Easter egg dyes, Erin? Isn’t that a lot of extra work to get boring, muted colors on your Easter eggs?”
I think it’s wildly important to talk about the why. Why I choose to spend my time and energy on this project vs something else feels like an important conversation to have, especially because slow living means I choose not to do lots of things, so I can do a few things really well.
I chose to explore natural dyes this year for a couple of reasons.
- FUN – This is always number one for me because sustainable living should be fun or it’s not worth doing. We had so much fun making our own dyes. My toddler and I treated it as a giant science experiment, trying to guess what colors we could make from different common foods in/around our home. And the color of the water doesn’t even always align with the color of the egg, so you get to be surprised all over again when you pull these magical eggs out of the dye.
- Health stuff – I generally like to avoid food dyes whenever possible. There are quite a few websites (like this one from the Cleveland Clinic) dedicated to this topic and I’m no where near a medical professional, so I’ll let you do your own research on this.
- Saving money – I didn’t spend a penny this year on our Easter eggs. I know single use dye kits aren’t very expensive (somewhere between $3 and $10, right?), but every dollar counts when you’re trying to make sustainable living available to everyone.
- Waste – I can’t stand the amount of waste in the average Easter egg dyeing kit. Sure, it’s not a lot by volume, but all of it feels unnecessary to me. I did take the time to think about the waste I’m creating when making my natural dyes because minimizing food waste is really important to me. I used the following ingredients in the recipe below and minimized food waste in the following ways:
- Beets: After boiling the beets for an hour they were perfectly cooked and edible so I saved them for salads and snacking. I didn’t peel them ahead of time, but I would recommend doing this if you plan to eat them and don’t enjoy eating the skin
- Onion skins: I stole a bunch of onion skins from my freezer stock bag (I save my vegetable scraps and meat bones in a bag in the freezer to make my own stock. Blog post coming soon about this process… stay tuned), but you could easily save your onion skins from cooking for a couple of days or sacrifice an onion or two. I was surprised by the small amount of skins required to make this dye. I used a combination of yellow and red onion skins to make my orange dye.
- Turmeric: this powdered spice was wasted. I couldn’t figure out how to save/use the spice in the end.
- Red cabbage: We happened to have a small red cabbage in our vegetable garden that had overwintered and was no longer edible. I can confirm that cabbage past it’s eating prime works just fine for dyes, but the smell of the cooking almost rotten cabbage isn’t great… it was almost more than my husband, Robbie, could handle!
- Blueberries: I used the last of a box of frozen blueberries from our freezer, so they were small and starting to dry out after spending the whole winter frozen. I composted the blueberries after boiling them for an hour. I bet you could get creative and eat them, maybe as a topping on yogurt or ice cream or in a smoothie. If you try this, please come back and tell me about it!
And finally, here’s the recipe and step-by step tutorial for you to make your own naturally dyed Easter eggs!
(makes enough dye to color at least one dozen eggs)
This recipe is adapted from Mommypotamus
Hard boiled eggs
2 cups diced beets (for pink/red dye)
1-2 cups onion skins from red and/or yellow onions (for orange dye)
3 Tablespoons Turmeric (for yellow dye)
2 cups shredded red cabbage (for blue/green dye)
2 cups blueberries (for blue/purple dye)
3-4 cups of water per color
2-3 Tablespoons of vinegar per color
- Cut/prep vegetables
- Place them in a pot, cover them with water (3-4 cups per pot/color), and bring to a boil
- Reduce heat and simmer for 10-60 minutes (longer time here creates a darker color)
- Cool completely and transfer to quart jar
- Add 2-3 Tablespoons vinegar per jar (note that 3 Tablespoons + overnight soaking was problematic for me; please see the note below)
- Place hard boiled eggs into the dye for 1 to 12 hours, depending on the desired color
Like any good experiment, we experienced both success and failures! A couple of important things I learned through my experimentation that might be helpful to you:
- Light brown eggs and/or a short time in the dye generally resulted in lighter colored final product (as you can see in the front row of the egg carton photo above)
- Darker brown eggs and/or leaving them in the dye longer generally resulted in darker colored final product (as you can see in the back row of the egg carton photo above)
- I left some of the eggs in the dye overnight and the vinegar started to peel off the outer layer of the eggs shell (you can see this in the back row of the egg carton photo above). If you are planning to leave your eggs in the dye overnight, I recommend using only 2 Tablespoons of vinegar to try to prevent this.
- Also, the natural dye doesn’t appear to be as “sturdy” as commercial dyes. As we handled the finished products, we noticed more and more scrapes and peeling in the dye.
As our first try at naturally dyed Easter eggs… I’m going to call this a wildly successful event. It was the perfect mix of science experiment and craft project, and we had great family moments throughout the process!
I can’t wait to see your naturally dyed eggs! If you try this at home, please come back and tell me about it! Bonus points for photos or tagging @carbonfreefamily on Instagram or Facebook. HAVE FUN!